By Krylon John
From his seat at a drafting table to the seat of a Harley, Dave Mann's perspective is always dripping just over the edge of consciousness.
Dave's only formal art education began in the late '50s at the Kansas City Art Institute where he took classes with his father. It ended soon after the two realized they were both better than their teacher. Later, in search of some cheap thrills, Mann bought a '48 Harley Panhead and chopped it. In one fell swoop he became the owner of the first chopped hog in the state. Inspired by his new monster, Dave began painting Harleys set against surreal backgrounds and skylines of distorted proportions. A move that would set the tone for his career as an artist.
Mann later moved to Florida when the architecture firm he worked for in Kansas City offered to set him up with his own studio, all expenses paid. It was in this environment that Dave's surrealism thrived and "It wasn't long before I was making more money outside of work than I was on the job," Mann recalls.
Around 1976, Dave quit the architecture firm and put a hold on his surrealist output. His freshly made art connections in New York were ready to bring him as much commercial work as he could handle, and after moving back to the smog belt of Los Angeles, Mann began his career as a book cover artist. He's since created over 500 covers for publishers such as Bantam, Pinnacle and St Martin's Press, and still cranks them out to this day. Only now, when he does work it is in his home studio in Kansas City. "I moved back home a year ago because I just couldn't take it anymore," he explains. "Too many pretty boys on new Harleys."
The great Renaissance painter Caravaggio is a constant source of inspiration for Dave who appreciates his lifestyle as much as his art. "I admire his realism and the fact that he didn't start with a sketch or a layout, he just started painting. Caravaggio was a Renaissance biker, a murderer who created his works on the run. He lived by the sword and died by the sword-my type of guy."
In 1971, the same year that Dave left California for Florida, his brother-in-law told him about an ad in the back of a motorcycle magazine that had just come out. Easyriders was looking for an artist. Dave's reputation preceeded him, and he was hired immediately, beginning a 25 year career that is his primary gig to this day. It was while at Easyriders that, not surprisingly, one of the more interesting twists of his career occurred. The good old boys down at the office misspelled his name in the masthead. For months, reader letters poured in to the magazine commenting on how much they loved the artwork of David "Manning."
David Mann's artwork can be seen monthly in the pages of Easyriders magazine. Inquiries regarding his work can be directed to the magazine's offices in Agoura Hills, California.